The History of Iranian Carpet

Iranian carpet is well known all around the world and it’s one of the most precious things that Iranian culture has. There is a large number of ancient fragments. The oldest is the Pazyryk carpet. The Pazyryk carpet is the oldest pile carpet that was found in Pazyryk valley in Siberia in the late 1940s. Most of the research has shown that this historic carpet belongs to Iran’s deep culture. Pazyryk carpet is almost 2500 years and is currently exhibited at the Hermitage museum in St. Petersburg, Russia.

Also, we can mention that another Iranian famous carpet is the Spring of Khosrow carpet. This is possibly the most costly and magnificent carpet of all time. This carpet was made for the Ctesiphon palace of the Sasanian king Khosrow. It became the model for subsequent garden carpets.  

According to a written account by The historian Al-Tabari in the 9th century about the carpet Khosrow, that carpet was seized in the 7th century. This is part of the written account which The historian Al-Tabari said: ”The border was a magnificent flower bed of blue, red, white, yellow and green stones in the background, the color of the earth was imitated with gold clear stones like crystal gave the illusion of water. The plants were in silk and the fruits were formed from colored stones”.

The next valuable carpet is the Ardabil carpet which is one of the oldest dated carpets (1542) and was made for the shrine of the founder of the Safavid Dynasty, Sheikh Safi Al-Din Ardabil. It is currently exhibited in Victoria and Albert museum. (


There is also a unique, perfect, and flawless carpet too that contains fragments from the twin carpet which is now in Los Angeles. At that time there were two carpets were repaired. When they were restored to suit the art market, the art market preferred the whole carpet because they were more valuable and complete together and consider more beautiful. But this carpet which is an extremely special example was one of the two both of which were damaged. The borders were removed from one carpet to complete the other carpet and other sections. So, the result was that the two twin carpets which used to be perfect twins which lay once on the floor of the article shrine, were restored to a kind of rectangular carpets but one was all as borders and the other one appeared complete but of course, it contains some pieces from the other carpet to make it perfect.

It made commercial sense but it now seems like something nobody would consider doing this to historic object.  If you go beyond it, that’s the physical repairs and you look at the design, you see absolutely an exceptional execution of Safavid court design.  

William Morris (1834-1896) was a British textile designer, poet, novelist, and social activist. There is a quotation by him of what he exactly mentioned about this carpet, He said ”as far as I could see it’s in perfectly good condition and its size and spender as a piece of workmanship do full justice to the beauty and intellectual qualities of the design”. He also mentioned ”To us pattern-designers, Persia has become a holy land, for there in the process of time our art was perfected”.

At that time one of the treasures was the Ardabil carpet, and when it came up for sale, Morris felt it was one of the most famous and beautiful carpets in all around the world and the museum had to have it. 

The arts and crafts movement was about looking at nature, looking at the past for inspiration, and looking at all of the other cultures as well. William Morris had several Persian carpets at different homes in London and elsewhere, actually, he did decorate the places with Persian carpets and rugs. Indeed, he put Persian carpets on the wall, because he felt that walking on them would wear it out and spoil it.

When Morris died, his wife sold the carpets to the museum. One of them was sold to the V&A museum (Victoria and Albert Museum), and they bought it for 200 pounds. Now you can see it on display in Jameel Islamic gallery. It does have a label saying it was owned by William Morris and It’s pretty close to the Ardabil carpet.

Jim ford who is an author also said ”I joined a company called OCM more than 50 years ago and which was based in London. I think it was one of the seven most important importers decided instead of competing they would collaborate, they joined together to create one company that would then have a monopoly of the imports of Turkish and Iranian carpets. They created this company in London called the Oriental carpet manufactures”.

He also mentioned that ”The company appointed a relative of one of the directors who was called Cecil Edwards to go to Iran in 1910 and discover what could be had from Persian. He then spent 13 years in Persia creating manufacturing in Hamadan for example. But above all, He was visiting every village, every town, and every tribe to discover what was valuable, available, and bought. They began to import huge quantities”.


Gabbeh is also a form of carpet (hand-woven carpet), which is woven by the different tribes in Iran. The Nomads in Iran would share the wool from their sheep. They would then dye them with natural colors and they weave them in nature. They usually have no specific plan. Patterns usually inspire from whatever they have in their mind and imagination. Also whatever they can see in nature. It was all improvised for example they could perhaps exist in a place near animals and they would portray the animals.   

In the history of modern arts, we have the period 160 to 170 years ago called impressionism. At that time the painters would take the canvases from enclosed rooms into natures. They looked at a sea’s color in the morning and its color changed in the afternoon and evening. As the result, they tried to paint rapidly and created a style in which reality was important. In fauvism, color takes precedence to the point that the subjects form and lightening is lost. When you look at Gabbeh rugs, you can’t see two are alike. It means that we can see the Gabbeh rugs were a kind of painting. A primitive painting, a regional piece, one that is Iranian nomadic that very much resembled modern styles in the history of painting.

Gabbeh rugs have lots of patterns but some of them are more popular than others. Generally, we can say Gabbeh has always a simple pattern. Most of the patterns are rectangular objects relating to animals. Gabbeh is a kind of woven which is much softer than other carpets and it’s because of the size of its fabric.

After all these, it’s time that talks about machine-made Persian carpets. There is another type of Iranian carpet which is so famous recently too. It’s a kind of synthetic type of carpet which is woven by industrial machines. Due to the speed of production and also the cheapness of materials, these kinds of carpets are cheaper than Persian hand-knotted carpets. But it’s too important to mention that the Persian machine-made carpets have also good quality and the advantage of them is that it’s easier to execute.

Kashan city in 1351, imported several knitting machines to produce this kind of carpets and the first samples of them had been produced by cotton weft yarns.

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